Sunday, December 31, 2017

After another humiliating loss, the question will be if the Packers learned the right lessons

It wasn’t a totally lost weekend if you are a football fan in Wisconsin. This past Saturday, the Badgers’ inconsistent quarterback Alex Hornibrook saved his best for last, throwing four touchdown passes in beating Miami on their own home field at the Orange Bowl, adding a measure of “needed” credibility for an already impressive 13-1 season, marred only by a 6-point loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game thanks to uncharacteristic big plays allowed by the defense early in the game. The Big Ten was shut out of a spot in the playoffs, but 7-0 in bowl games against Big-5 competition with one New Year’s game left should at least provide some consolation. Meanwhile, somewhere in Michigan…

…Mike McCarthy continued to put his faith in his own “genius”—or hard-headedness—by starting Brett Hundley one more time, with predictable results in another humiliating loss, 35-11 to the Lions. Hundley’s numbers were not as bad as last week, but two interceptions, a fumble, 40 sack yards lost, five consecutive series in which a total of -7 yards were “gained,” and you have an easy explanation for another miserable offensive performance, in no way mitigated by a late game touchdown with the Packers down by 24 points. It appeared that McCarthy’s stubbornness would still get the better of him even after the Lions promptly answered with a touchdown, but Hundley’s subsequent interception apparently exhausted even his patience, and “Rudy” finally got a chance to play. Joe Callahan may not have played as well in the one series that was left to him as we might have imagined, but he did complete 5 of 7 passes and avoided throwing an interception in his first NFL action. Hundley finished the season with a 70.6 passer rating, good enough to finish 31st out of 33 eligible quarterbacks with the minimum number of pass attempts. 

The Packers finished the season 7-9, McCarthy’s second losing campaign since 2006. The Packers clearly do not have a defense that can keep the team in the game on a regular basis when the offense is playing poorly, and that is a given if Aaron Rodgers is not playing and Hundley is. The “eye” test tells us that despite starting nine games, Hundley has shown little improvement in his ninth start from his first. Heading into next season, the Packers will have to decide if the team’s experience with Hundley is more educational than Hundley’s has been for his own future. Datone Jones (a former teammate at UCLA, and who has appeared on four different rosters this season) claimed last October that Hundley was a “future Hall of Famer.” The Packers should know better than that when evaluating their backup quarterback position next season.

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